thoughts…

A small amount of time has passed since Anthony Bourdain’s death but I am still trying to process the reason why it has affected me so much.  Perhaps it is because, I had come to know a part of him through his writing, cooking or documentaries and wanted to know more and now that chance is gone.  Or maybe, part of me identifies with some of his struggles, which were at least hinted at during his programs.  There was always that pain you could  glimpse as you looked at his eyes, disconcerting but genuine, making you wonder what was going on or what had happened. His death might also bother me because he was almost exactly one year older than I am but I still believe there is something deeper that I have not quite figured out yet.

I would like to say that my attitude towards cooking was based on what I saw  and read but knowing that I will never be as talented or adventurous these words ring hollow.  Cooking for me is a pastime for him it was his soul. I am sad as many people are and we must process the tragic and move on but I know a brilliant light has been lost. To me he was a person who dealt in reality, sifted out the bullshit, and looked for the commonality in the one thing that everybody on this planet must do, eat.  I thank him for the insights into other countries, cultures, foods and flavors. Anthony, wherever you are, may you rest in peace.

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The lost and found…

Every so often a person can find themselves lost without direction or purpose and I can honestly say I am no different. I have started and, ultimately discarded over 20 posts since I last put a recipe out here and there is no other reason than I was just not into it.  Work and frustration had beat me senseless and wore me down to the point of indifference making me feel lost.  So here I am fighting the indifference and trying to get found, again.

I know that everyone needs a reason to be or “raison d’être”.  My reason to be, as I have come to discover, is to have fun writing and figure out ways to use food ingredients to their maximum taste by utilizing all of  their flavor qualities and, not just the obvious ones.  I guess I need this blog to take my mind away from the frustrations.  To that end, I have been quietly stockpiling new recipes so that I will have something to put here and I will get them out shortly, once they make the leap to electronic format from my food notebook. Among these recipes are chicken quesadillas and a pineapple stuffed pork tenderloin. (Yes I am going to go Hawaiian on you)

Since I completed my cabbage quest, I have decided on a new quest and I believe it will be an interesting one.  The quest is to conquer vegetarian cooking in a unique way that will not only cater to those who are vegetarians but those who are not. Obviously I will use only vegetables or vegetable based products but I want to come up with entrees and sides which will not just be, “the same old thing”  because, face it, boiling, and steaming seem to be the main way folks get vegetables done and frankly that is boring.  There are folks out there that destroy vegetables by boiling them into a mush and serving them in a shapeless heap on the plate. (It really should be a crime.) I want to change that and I am fully aware that there are chefs and cooks out there that are way more talented than I am but, I want to see if I can do something new. I am imagining a twist on sweet potato hash, vegetarian chili, nifty lasagna riffs and a whole hearted effort to extract all the flavors I can from various vegetables without breaking the bank.

On a different note, there is an awesome new blog out there that is a must see if you love well written pieces about unique and interesting things about New York City.  The blog is wander woman-nyc (https://wanderwomannyc.com) and is written by the lovely and talented Jess G.  You owe it to yourself to check this out and visit some of the places in New York City she describes in her writing.

Until Next time,

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Gary Bechard

I did it!! (The end of a quest)

Well, I now consider myself a conqueror, not in the bloody now I have taken over a country kind of way, but I have completed my quest to stuff every type of cabbage I know. Those of you who may have been following this quest saw my take on Galumpki (green cabbage), Bok Choy, Savoy and a holy host of others. For each iteration, I tried to match the flavor characteristics of the cabbage to the ingredients with which I stuffed them. Red cabbage, in its own right, is kind of sweet so I sought out the flavors that would challenge that sweetness and create a nice mixture of sweet and spicy.  Chorizo sausage was one of the choices that I considered along with hot Italian sausage and Cajun sausage but I have always leaned toward Chorizo.  There is something about the mixture of spices that kind of seduce you like a flamenco dancer when your head is full of good Spanish wine. The only thing I did not like about Chorizo was the fattiness.  However, I figured that I could drain the fat from the meat after cooking before I put it into the stuffing mixture.  Also, there were a couple of alternatives for the rice component of the stuffing mixture, wild rice flavored with lime and cilantro, saffron (yellow rice), regular basmati rice and a flavored box rice.  I believe that each of the choices would have worked but the flavored box rice was the winner. Zatarain’s makes a cilantro and lime flavored rice that fit very well into the recipe, it was easy AND… well that is about it, easy.  The resulting recipe turned out very well and surprised me with its depth of flavor.  It was nice not to have to adjust the different flavor ingredients since the chorizo added most of the nuances.  You might notice that the name of the recipe mirrors what I was watching while I was creating it. It seems that I was not the only conqueror yesterday as Army defeated Navy in a hard fought football game and won the Commander in Chief’s Trophy (the trophy goes to the service academy who beats the other two in football in the same year) for the first time since 1996.  It was a long time in coming for Army just as it was a long time in coming for my being able to complete my quest and stuff every kind of cabbage. Now without further adieu, the recipe.

The Well Fed Cyclist – Gary Bechard

Army Wins! Stuffed Cabbage

(Chorizo stuffed Red cabbage)

(Serves 4-6)

 

Ingredients:

9 oz or 0.6 lbs – Chorizo sausage

11 oz or 0.7 lbs – Lean ground beef (I used 92/8)

1 box – Zatarain’s Cilantro Lime rice, (prepared according to package instructions)

1 – Medium head of Red cabbage

1/2 – Poblano pepper, finely chopped (Stuffing mixture), use more or less for the amount of hot spice you want in the mixture

1– Red Bell pepper, small, fine chopped

1/3 – Sweet onion, finely chopped

1 ½ tbsp – Cilantro, chopped

1 – Lime, juiced

Preparation – Before everything else, core the cabbage head by taking a 3 to 4 inch deep cone (the cone should be about the same length as a good paring knife) around the stem and place top down in a medium stock pot, cover with water and boil for about 35-40 minutes. Once the cabbage head is done, take and set in a colander to drain and cool. However, while the cabbage is doing its thing, take the chopped onion, Poblano pepper and red bell pepper and sauté them in a medium pan until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft. When these are done remove them from the pan and place in a bowl for later. Next take the chorizo and the ground beef and place them in the same pan from which you just removed the vegetables and brown fully at medium heat making sure that the chorizo and the ground beef are very well mixed. At the end of the cooking process and before you are getting ready to remove the meat from the pan add the lime juice and the cilantro and mix until the ingredients are evenly distributed. When this is done strain the fat juice from the meat and place in a bowl for later.

Rice – I used Zatarain’s rice because it is easy and only takes 25 minutes and can be done at the same time as everything else. Cook the rice according to the package directions place in a bowl and set aside.

Stuffing Mixture – Take your meat mixture, rice and vegetables and place into a very large bowl. Now you are ready to fold everything together until all the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Construction Instruction

Creating the stuffed leaves – First, make your “production line” in a pretty large working area of the kitchen with the colander that contains the cabbage, then the stuffing bowl, a large flat plate on which to stuff and fold the cabbage leaves then your baking dish. In the baking dish (a deep 9” X 13”), or similar dish, (the one that I use is about 2 ½ “ to 3” deep) put about a ¼ inch (about a 1/3 cup) of water in the bottom to keep the leaves moist during the baking process. Working from the outside of the cabbage head, take a leaf and place on the plate with stem side toward you, spoon about a couple of tablespoons worth of the mixture in the center (the amount of mixture will vary with the size of the leaves) then, take the stem side and fold over top of the mixture so that the end is at the edge of the pile of mixture, next, fold each side to the center and finally take the far end and fold toward you. Take the completed packet and place with the smooth side up in the baking dish. Repeat, this process until you have a layer of packets along the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Plating – I plated these 2 to 3 per person and allow each person to put the amount of Salsa or Piquante Sauce that they like on them. You could also serve this with plantain chips as a side.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

You must be true to a legend…

I know that most people are going to think that I am nuts but…I am okay with that.  Everyone knows that legends are legends for a reason.  Take Pele, his performances on the soccer field (football for those European folk I know) are the stuff of legend.  The same can be said of Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, and a holy host of other sports stars. There are foods that are also legendary like Jaques Pepin’s Bouef Bourgignon, Julia Childs whole cookbook, or even Anthony Bourdain’s riffs on French cuisine. That is not to say that a person cannot do a wink and a nod to a legend, change some things and make it their own. I know I have done it and for the most part the recipes worked but the completed dishes were no where near on par with the legendary recipe from which I borrowed. There are some dishes that are so iconic that they need to remain as they are, or at least as close as possible. Philly Cheesesteaks are one of the dishes that I feel should always be true to the original. This sandwich has been around since the 1930’s when Pat Olivieri first grilled some beef at his hotdog stand and put it on a sandwich roll.  Geno’s cheesesteak sandwiches came around in 1966 and there has been a rivalry ever since. Geno’s was the first to put Cheese Wiz on the roll before the beef  and the result was, not to put too fine a point on it, legendary. So how did I come to want to pay homage to these legends?  It was when I saw what was out there on Philly Cheesesteaks and the people making them.  They were actually calling them Philly Cheesesteak and I was disheartened. They all looked okay but please, Hawaiian King rolls, hamburger slider buns or using, GASP! Steakums?!!  I wanted to do a Cheesesteak slider that was as close to the original as possible and the result was a change in the type of bun and making sure that the steak was right.  I loved how everything turned out and I hope you try them. Now for the recipe.

Ode to a Legend, (Philly Cheesesteak Sliders)

Gary Bechard – The Well Fed Cyclist

Ingredients:

1.2 lbs – New York Strip Steak, sliced very thin

½ – Sweet onion, sliced very thin

½ – Red bell pepper, sliced very thin

½ – Green bell pepper, sliced very thin

1 tsp – Garlic, minced (you will use half for the meat and half for the vegetables)

1 tsp – Sea salt

1 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil (a couple of turns around each of the pans)

6 – Chicago rolls

Cheese Wiz

Construction Instruction:

Vegetables – In a nice sauté pan (a ten inch should work), do a couple of turns around the pan with the olive oil and bring the pan to medium heat remembering that olive oil has a pretty low smoke point. First add the garlic to the oil and allow the garlic to soften. Next add the peppers and onions and sauté them until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft.

Meat – In a slightly larger pan than used for the vegetables (one that will fit the vegetables and the meat in a bit), do a couple of turns around the pan with the olive oil and bring to heat. First add the garlic and soften, then add the meat and brown the slices all the way through. Season the meat with the salt and pepper while cooking.

Together – Take the vegetables and add them to the meat pan, complete with the juices, mix together, cover the pan and reduce the heat.

Take the buns and split each the long way like a sub roll (hoagie or grinder depending on which part of the country you are from), take a generous helping of the meat and vegetable mixture place on the rolls and add Cheese Wiz and serve.

These were served with a pasta salad with celery, green pepper, red pepper and carrots finished with lemon tarragon vinaigrette dressing.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

So…sometimes you’re stuck, it happens

There you are in your kitchen staring longingly into the refrigerator half trying to cool off and half wondering what that “science experiment” is still doing in the vegetable drawer.  It is HOT outside, muggy enough that you can see birds swimming from tree to tree instead of flying and you have changed your shirt for the third time because of the heat. You may not be motivated enough to head to the grocery store so, what in the world can you do for dinner?  I always say, “work with what you got!”

I was in this situation a couple of weeks ago  and had to kind of wing it.  Avoiding the “science experiment”, and actually throwing it away (To this day, I cannot figure out what it was.) I saw that I had a half bag of fresh spinach leaves, romaine lettuce leaves, a broccoli crown, two small red/yellow bell peppers, half a green bell pepper, a quarter bag of shredded carrots, 3 Roma tomatoes, and about 4 ounces of fresh mushrooms. From my freezer, 1.05 pounds of chicken tenders and, from the pantry, the magic elixir that pulled everything together, Brianna’s Special Request Lively Lemon Tarragon salad dressing.  The result of this list of ingredients was a good dinner, using up some things that would not have been enough for a different recipe and avoiding another trip into the hot muggy South Carolina summer.

Super B Salad

Lemon Taragon Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

1 lb – Chicken tenders

1 bottle – Brianna’s Lemon Tarragon salad dressing

1/2 bag – Fresh spinach leaves

1 – Broccoli crown large, separated into florets

1/4 bag – Shredded carrots

2 – Small red or yellow bell peppers cut into thin rings

3 – Roma tomatoes, cut into thin wedges

4 oz – fresh mushroom slices

Dry aged red wine vinegar (to be used as a dressing in splashes to compliment the chicken)

Construction Instruction:

Take chicken and marinate in a full bottle of the Brianna’s salad dressing for an hour. In a non-stick skillet sprayed with Pam or other non caloric non-stick spray, bring your heat up to just under half way or low medium heat.  Trying to keep as much of the marinade on the chicken, place the tenders in the skillet and begin to cook them. Make sure you are turning the chicken tenders often so that the dressing caramelizes on the outside of the chicken.  This process will take about 15 to 20 minutes.

Since the chicken is going to cook fairly slow, arrange the vegetable ingredients on large plates to await the crowning achievement, the chicken.

This was a simple, easy meal that turned out great.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Gary Bechard

 

 

Things that go “Bumpily” into the night…

I know it has been a while, for those of you that follow this blog, and I apologize for not being more diligent in my writing endeavors. However, today I have a couple of things that I have been researching which are now ready for “prime time” that I would like to share. The first thing, and I will state this up front, no, the featured picture is not of Martian pyramids discovered by the NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover nor are they sound proofing material or a sadistic mattress pad. The picture is of a silicon baking sheet which is dishwasher safe and helps create a nice crispy outer layer on those items which could be fried (chicken wings, breadcrumb coated chicken breasts, etc.) only without the oil and related slipperiness associated with deep-frying stuff. The sheet also works for items such as zucchini strips or eggplant cubes you may want to serve as appetizers for your next big shindig. The sheet fits in the bottom of a regular cookie sheet or can be trimmed to fit smaller cookie sheets. I got this one at Bed, Bath and Beyond for not a whole lot of cash.

Next, have you ever wondered what in the world you can do with the grocery store rotisserie chickens after the regular meal? Well, we had some leftover chicken I had deboned  from a previous meal and was getting hungry for lunch when I was trying to figure out what to do with the cup and a half of shredded leftover chicken. Not wanting to go down the traditional chicken salad route, I decided to do a taziki sauce to mix with the chicken to make the chicken salad.  Doing taziki sauce instead of mayonnaise helps eliminate the “I’ve got a bowling ball in my stomach” feeling especially during warmer weather. Below is the recipe for a simple taziki sauce which does not have the traditional garlic (you could add a couple of minced cloves if you want to or even a hint of mint) which worked great for this recipe.

I started with 1 1/2 cups of shredded chicken then…

Simple Taziki Sauce

Ingredients:

1/2 – Medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and very fine diced (you can also use an ½ an English cucumber if you are not in a seeding kind of mood)

8 oz (1 cup) – Cold plain Greek yogurt (either full fat or fat free will work)

1 tbsp – chopped dill, fresh

1 tbsp – Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 1/2 Tbsp – freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon) in case you are thinking otherwise, please squeeze a real lemon, you’ll thank me for it)

1/2 tsp – salt, or to taste (some of us are saltier than others)

1/8 tsp – Coarse ground black pepper

A pinch – Red pepper flakes

Construction Instruction:

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and whisk together until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Cover the mixture and place in the refrigerator to chill before use.

This sauce is good for a wide variety of uses from dips to garnish even making chicken salad.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist

Gary Bechard

Experimenting with Roasty Toasty Goodness…

“Y’all know me, know how I make a livin'” or so said Quint in the movie “Jaws” (at the town meeting before he gets eaten by the shark) but some folks out there reading this may not know that this blog is just my creative outlet and not my livin’. I would not mind doing this for a living but it is a way to express myself through food. If you are a first time reader, welcome! and if you are a returning reader, welcome back! Ah, enough of this sappy talk and on with today’s recipes. Yes, I said recipes, plural!

To give you some background, I was walking through the neighborhood store one day and “eye grazing” (it’s a thing) spices when Roasted Ground Ginger caught my eye. Knowing I had Toasted Sesame seeds at the house it started me thinking that I HAD to get these two together somehow. I was originally at a loss as to which protein I wanted to use for this experiment. The problem was that the Roasty combined with the Toasty were kind of sultry, sexy and deep flavors and I knew that doing something like a steak would muddle them and create palate confusion.  Nobody wants palate confusion because the next thing you know you are scoring a corn dog on some side street and calling it a gourmet meal. I knew I wanted something a bit sweet and light so the first thing that came to mind was crab but not being hyper motivated to make crab burgers or something of the like I decided on some type of fish. A trip to my favorite fish market “Mr. Fish” here in Myrtle Beach helped me decide on what kind.  I used Corvina which is a light sweet flakey fish along the same lines as grouper but a bit more tender. Please note that if you are ever in the Myrtle Beach area Mr. Fish is a tremendous place to buy seafood. Their knowledge of their inventory is expansive and are always willing to help you find exactly what you want.  There is also a Mr. Fish restaurant next door which has some great food and the chef has it “goin’ on” with different types of sauces. Also, their crab cakes are to die for.  So, Corvina was the choice and I decided to serve this with a Daikon radish and zucchini salad (recipe below) and jasmine rice. Without further delay here are the recipes.

Roasty Toasty Corvina

The Well Fed Cyclist – Gary Bechard

Ingredients:

1 lb – Corvina filets (2, 8 ounce servings) (You could substitute Grouper or any other mild, sweet, flakey, fish)

1/2 cup – Panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup – Whole, wheat flour, unbleached (I find that this type of flour brings out the smoky flavors in the seasonings)

2 tbs – Toasted sesame seeds

1 ½ tsps. – Roasted ground ginger

2 tsps – Coarse ground black pepper

1 tbs – Dried parsley

2 tbs – Soy Sauce (I use Kikoman lite soy sauce to cut down on sodium)

Construction Instruction:

In a one gallon sealable plastic bag or medium bowl combine breadcrumbs, wheat flour, sesame seeds, ginger, coarse ground black pepper and parsley. When you have done this either seal (yes that is important) and shake the bag to thoroughly mix the ingredients or whisk them together in the bowl to do the same thing. Next, take the mixture and place on a plate or a shallow dish. Then dip the filets in water and press into the mixture and coat each side evenly. Place the filets in a ceramic or glass baking dish which has been sprayed with some cooking spray and a small amount of water. (Note: the water should not be very deep and should only barely cover the bottom of the dish) Before baking, drizzle 1 tablespoon of soy sauce down the center of each filet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes (time will depend on how thick the filets are) until fish flakes easily.

Spiralize This! (Daikon Radish and Zucchini Salad)

The Well Fed Cyclist – Gary Bechard

Ingredients:

1 – Medium zucchini, either run through a “spiralizer” or very finely sliced (julienned)

1 – Small Daikon radish, either run through a “spiralizer” or very finely sliced (julienned)

1/4 – Medium sweet onion, very thinly sliced

1/2 cup – Shredded carrots

1/2 – Red bell pepper, very thinly sliced

1/2 – Yellow bell pepper, very thinly sliced

1/3 cup – White mushrooms, diced (You could also use a mixture of mushrooms like shitake, or others which may give it a bit more flavor)

10 to 15 – Small grape tomatoes, halved

Ginger salad dressing

Construction Instruction:

I will tell you that the easiest way to go here is to get a “Spiralizer”, which is not too expensive, and run the daikon radish and zucchini through it and put in a medium bowl. After slicing the onion and peppers, add these along with the shredded carrots into the same bowl. Note: I used shredded carrots because although I could have run large carrots through the “Spiralizer”, this saved some preparation time. Once all the long ingredients and the mushrooms are in the bowl, lightly toss to get all of these items evenly distributed. When this is done add the tomatoes and lightly season the salad with the ginger dressing or you can serve and allow your guests to season their own salads.

Enjoy!

The Well Fed Cyclist